Category Archives: Memory

Nietzsche and the TARDIS

I follow Nietzsche on Twitter. He doesn’t return the compliment. My days are peppered with @NietzscheQuotes – yet I still can’t spell his name in a hurry. This recent one set me thinking:

Admiration for a quality or an art can be so strong that it deters us from striving to possess it.

Upon seeing this, I was immediately transported back to the late 70s when I used to attend guitar summer schools.  Even then, as a callow youth, I noticed a polarity in reaction to outstanding recitals by visiting artists. The response of some would be, “I’m going to give up” – a skewed compliment suggesting that the peak reached by the artist lay outwith than the numbers of years left to them for catching up. I knew they were joking but it sounded defeatist and disappointing.

I hadn’t thought about this for about 35 years but reading the above quote coincided with an unusual conversation with a pal who asked, “how did you get to be so cultured?” I laughed at what seemed like obvious irony – but he was serious and was looking for an answer. The best I could think of was “just being interesting in things.” He then said, “Yes, but how do you get interested?” And I was quite stumped.

Any ideas?

Neuroscience and Education

I was pleased to see the topic of neuroscience and education make an appearance in Radio 4′s Brain Season. Tuesday’s crepuscular drive home was brightened up by the second of Matthew Taylor‘s 3-part series Brain Culture: Neuroscience & Society.

This particular episode touched on such topics as early years (stimulation – or lack thereof) and use of games in the classroom. What grabbed my attention the most, however, was when the conversation turned to praise and self-esteem. There was the suggestion that praising young people for being clever may not help them when they hit a wall as much as praising them for effort. *

You can hear the programme here (and there seems to be no suggestion of the usual removal date).

* ps the day after posting this I came across the following quote from @greatestquotes on Twitter

“It’s not that I’m so smart , it’s just that I stay with problems longer .” – Albert Einstein

The Unanswered Question

Can you recall a sea-change in your thinking taking place after a book, documentary, film, argument talk, lecture? I’ve written here before on Leonard Bernstein’s Norton Lectures, on music and linguistics, The Unanswered Question, and the effect they had on my musical thinking. All six lectures are now on YouTube.

One thing I learned much later was that Bernstein had memorised the scripts! If you have several hours to spare, not necessarily all in the same day, then I can’t recommend them highly enough:

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A History of Modern Music: The Timeline

Thanks to Lesley Pearson for pointing me to Open Culture‘s  recent links, which included this great interactive History of Modern Music. Dating from 1899 – 2011, the genres covered are Pop, Rock, RnB/HipHop, Indie, Dance, World/Folk, Jazz. Emanating from The Guardian, each icon links to a short piece from that paper on the topic. The articles range from the serious, such as Pete Seeger’s refusal to testify at McCarthy‘s House Un-American Activities Committee, to the frivolous, such as the then breaking news that the Modern Jazz Quartet were buying tuxedos.

Conference 1

I recently experienced four days which I would have to sum up as amongst the most stimulating but toughest days I can recall. They were spent at a conference (organised by the Mariani Foundation and hosted by Edinburgh University – specifically Katie Overy of the IMHSD) entitled: The Neurosciences and Music: Learning & Memory

 Stimulating for the following reasons: 

  • dedicated, uninterrupted time to devote to an area of fascination which often only pops up intermittently – namely the intersection of music, language, memory, learning, science (of various sorts)
  • the world’s leading thinkers – many of whose names I had already come across – were presenting recent research
  • the questions/comments often added another dimension to the talks – I noted that resonant, thought-provoking questions were equally likely from delegates in identical or contrasting fields to the speaker

 Tough for the following reasons: 

  • although I am now very interested in science, I do not have a scientific background – my last formal contact was failing Higher Chemistry and Physics in 1977
  • speed – all speakers were keen to run to time and presentations were necessarily quick – this meant that slides containing acronyms, data, graphs, brain scans etc. seemed to be racing by*
  • concentration – not my own (although this was no doubt challenged) but more the concentration of 18 hours of listening and a further 6 hours of poster viewing/chat to authors over four days was quite dense 

I would equate the content of those four days with at least a year’s reading, TV/radio documentaries, on-line exploration. For that reason, I was glad to have my Zoom H2 mp3 recorder with me and intend to re-visit many of the talks in order to write things up over time. Until then, though, here is an outline of content to give some broad overview of the content. 

*One of the delegates seated next to me, using an iPad, switched seamlessly between – typing, photographing, videoing. That’s the way to go! Other devices are available :-)

Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning & Memory

 DAY 1  – Thu 9 June

 

  Registration

 “Working with Infants and Children”

 Workshop 1Experimental Methods  – 4 x 30 minute presentations

 Workshop 2 – Social / Real World Methods – 4 x 20 minute presentations

 Day 2 – Fri 10 June

 

 Keynote lecture - Human memory – 45 minutes

Symposium IMechanisms of Rhythm and Meter Learning over the Life Span – 3 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 2Impact of Musical Experience on Cerebral Language Processing – 4 x 30 minute presentations

Symposium 3Cultural Neuroscience of Music – 6 x 20 minute presentations

Poster session I – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 

Day 3 – Saturday 11 June


Symposium 4 - Memory and Learning in Music Performance 5 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 5Mind and Brain in Musical Imagery – 5 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 6 - Plasticity and Malplasticity in Health and Disease – 5 x 20 minute presentations

Poster session II – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 

Day 4 – Sunday 12 June

Symposium 7The Role of Music in Stroke Rehabilitation: neural mechanisms and therapeutic techniques – 6 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 8Music: A Window into the World of Autism – 4 x 25 minute presentations

Symposium 9Learning and Memory in Musical disorders – 4 x 25 minute presentations

Edinburgh International Film Festival previews – neuroscience is a theme this year – 15 min presentation

Conclusions and thanks.

Poster session III – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 18 hours of talks – 6 hours of poster sessions

45 Speakers

300+ delegates

It never rains but it pours…

… I hate that expression – but anyway.

Tomorrow sees the Neuromusic IV conference kick off. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages. I intend to write up (m)any interesting things when it’s over (it runs till Sunday). Fittingly the conference closes with a concert and jazz session, at which I have offered to play what has become one of my favourite tunes (see video below).

On Saturday evening, I’ll be taking time out for a much loved musical experience – a Calton Consort concert (what a poet!) Had that not been on, I’d have gone along to this Edinburgh Contemporary Music Ensemble event. I’ve just been listening to some audio from previous events.

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Music and Memory

Does a life of active involvement in music bestow enhanced memory – more able to withstand the ravages of age? Nina Kraus of the Audio Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois certainly believes so. Why not listen to a short conversation she had with Eddie Mair on Radio 4′s PM? Scroll forward to 27:50 of this?

The website of the Audio Neuroscience Laboratory is a treasure trove of interesting material.

There is an interesting paragraph about the effects of music on the brain here

Also – have a look at this slide show about the brain’s encoding of music and speech - or the slide show about speech in noise.

There are also three interesting videos on the site:

The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory

Today I received formal acknowledgement of enrolment in a conference entitled: The Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning and Memory,

Organised by the Fondazione Mariani in conjunction with Edinburgh University’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, the conference will take place in Edinburgh from 9 – 12 June. As part of what I see as payback for the investment in my attendance there, I intend to post write-ups of relevant content, for the benefit of pupils, colleagues and other interested parties.

Some of the highlights of the conference include:

Impact of musical experience on cerebral language processing – Mathias Oechslin (Chair), Geneva, Switzerland

Why would musical training benefit language functions? A neurobiological perspective? – Aniruddh Patel, San Diego, USA

Memory and learning in music performance – Caroline Palmer and Peter Pfordresher (Chairs)

Keynote lecture - Human memory – Alan Baddeley, York, UK

The functional architecture of Working Memory for tones and phonemes in non-musicians and musicians with and without absolute pitch – Stefan Koelsch, Berlin, Germany

Learning and memory in musical disorders – Psyche Loui and Isabelle Peretz (Chairs)

Hommage a Tansman

My friend, Marek Pasieczny, sent a link to his latest, and thoroughly engaging, composition on video (see below). Tansman, a fellow Pole, emigrated to USA, where he was aided in his bid to settle there by Charlie Chaplin. I’ll also embed other videos by Marek. Some have already appeared in this blog but, in the hope that pupils will be more likely to explore them if they all appear together, I’ll repeat myself.

Best wishes, to all who drop in on this blog, for Christmas and New Year!

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